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Joseph C. Romano, plumber and WW II vet, 95, got hero's welcome after Honor Flight

Aug. 31, 1922 — Aug. 20, 2018

Joseph Charles Romano served for three years in the U.S. Army during World War II. Discharged on Dec. 12, 1945, he came home, hung his uniform in the closet, married his sweetheart, and went to work.

Seventy years later, he was welcomed home.

In 2015, Mr. Romano went to Washington, D.C., with Honor Flight Buffalo and his daughter Joan Randall as escort. He enjoyed the entire trip, but for him the highlight was the crowds that turned out at the airports in Buffalo and Baltimore to applaud, wave flags, shake the veterans' hands and thank them for their service.

"The thing he was most touched by was all the people who came out at the airport," said his son, Joseph D. Romano. "When he came back, not only were all our family members there, but there were hundreds and hundreds of people lined up. He said he was so touched, and he had never experienced that. When he came home in 1945, he just went right back to work and took care of his family."

Mr. Romano died Aug. 20, 11 days before his 96th birthday, in Elderwood at Williamsville, where he had lived for a few weeks.

Joseph Romano and his daughter, Joan Randall, on his Honor Flight trip in 2015.

Mr. Romano was born and grew up on the West Side of Buffalo, the youngest child, after siblings Louise, Sam, Peter, Charles and Louis, of immigrants Guiseppe and Carmelo (Sardo) Romano. Guiseppe Romano worked in a salt mine in Sicily and worked in construction in Buffalo; the youngest three children were born in the United States.

Mr. Romano attended McKinley High School, walking miles each day to school "in nice weather or bad weather," his son said, until a teacher found out about it and offered him bus fare in exchange for helping out at school.

After graduation from McKinley, Mr. Romano went to trade school to become a plumber. He and Jennie Lombardo, whom he had met in a neighborhood social club, became a couple.

Then World War II intruded.

Mr. Romano entered the service on Nov. 28, 1942, serving with the 460th Ordnance Evacuation Company in France during the European Campaign. Traveling on mountain roads at night, Mr. Romano transported munitions and supplies to soldiers on the front lines, then picked up prisoners of war and transported them back.

"He said it was challenging because he had to do most of the driving at night, and they would not allow him to use any headlights because they were afraid that the bombers would see and bomb the supply vehicles," said his son. "So he had to navigate these roads to and from the front lines with no lighting, which was a challenge, but every now and then he would have a moonlit night, which would help."

Mr. Romano completed three years of service, nearly two of them in Central Europe, Normandy and Northern France. He was honorably discharged on Dec. 12, 1945. Five weeks later, on Jan. 19, 1946, he and Jennie were married in St. Anthony of Padua Church in Buffalo.

"When Mom said goodbye, she didn't see him for almost three years," said Joseph D. Romano. "That's why they got married in January. All of their friends from childhood waited until June or July to get married. Mom said, 'No, I want to get married right away.' That's why they got married in January in Buffalo."

Mr. Romano's work as a plumber and later plumbing foreman for several commercial plumbing firms led to assignments on several large projects, including work at the University at Buffalo North Campus, several shopping plazas and the building in which he died, Elderwood at Williamsville. He retired in 1984 but remained a member of Plumbers Local Union 22.

Around 1950, Mr. Romano built a house on Elmview Drive in Tonawanda, where he and Jennie raised three daughters and a son. During this time, he was a member of the Sheridan Park Volunteer Fire Company.

From 1968 to 1984, they lived on Fruitwood Terrace in Amherst, then moved into an apartment in Williamsville.

The family had a cottage in Thunder Bay, Ont., for some 30 years until 2004. Mr. and Mrs. Romano cultivated a huge garden and entertained family and friends regularly, said their daughter Joan.

A devout Catholic, Mr. Romano was a parishioner of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Williamsville.

After 66 years of marriage, Mrs. Romano died on Jan. 8, 2012.

In addition to his son Joseph D. and daughter Joan Randall, Mr. Romano is survived by daughters Camille Sorenson and Annette Urkewich; eight grandchildren; and nieces and nephews.,

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11 a.m. Tuesday in SS. Peter and Paul Church, 5480 Main St., Williamsville.

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